Google today introduced the “Indian Languages Internet Alliance (ILIA)” in India which is basically Google teaming up with news content producers in India, along with the government to ensure that Internet content in Hindi (for now) becomes easily available.
The ILIA is composed of ABP News, Amar Ujala, NDTV, Network 18, Oneindia.com,Patrika Group, Reverie Language Technologies Private Limited to name a few.
As part of this alliance, Google also launched a new website called www.hindiweb.com which essentially curates content from these websites in Hindi language, thus making it easier for users who are not proficient in English to access more content.
Google also showed off improved version of the Voice Search in Hindi as well a new, faster Hindi keyboard. The company also announced that it would be launching some 15 Hindi font families which would be open-source and work across platforms, to help bloggers, authors who chose to write in Hindi.
The highlight of this Google event was the presence of Senior Vice-President and head of Google’s Search product Amit Singhal. Google’s India Managing Director Rajan Anandan was also present at the event as was India’s Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar.
As Anandan outlined, the aim of Google’s Internet alliance is to ensure that the next crop of Indian users who come online find the Internet useful. “Currently over 200 million Indians are online and most of them are already proficient with English. We want to ensure that the next 300 million who are not proficient with English find the Internet just as easy to use,” he said. He also stressed that the next batch of Internet users would be coming via mobile-first and that the age of desktops was over, so search had to cater to such users.
He added that the alliance hopes to see 500 million Internet users from India by 2017. When asked to explain the ILIA in more detail, he said, “This is the first step. There were will various working groups as part of this alliance and each will have some specific output. The focus will be on fonts, content, accessibility, etc.” He stressed that Hindiweb.com will be a consumer entry point and that anyone can choose to be a part of this content site.
Singhal also spoke about why Google was focusing on Hindi for now and the reason for this is that it is the dominant language in India. He added that Google intends to take the Voice Search, Better keyboard, predictive text, etc., to other Indian languages as well. “We’re just getting started. Clearly all the learnings will be employed to other Indian languages as well,” he told the press.
Singhal said Google had extended Voice Search to other languages in other countries as well and it would draw on it’s experiences to ensure a better Hindi-based Internet experience for Indian users.
“What we learn from the Hindi-experience in India, will proliferate into other languages. However at this moment it’s impossible for me to give a timeline on how soon other Indian languages will get the same features,” he said.
Google’s Anandan said that the plan was to bring the features to at least the top eight Indian languages within the next 18 months, which would include Bengali, Marathi, Tamil, Malayalam, etc.
Earlier this year, Google Now, the voice-assistant from the company, had got an Indian accent. Now search in Hindi will gain more focus, and get better features. With mobile Internet set to grow in India, Google isn’t just aiming to ensure that the next wave of non-English speakers come online, but that they also find their online experience as easy as the English speakers do.
Disclaimer: Network18 which is part of the ILIA is the publisher of Firstpost.com